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Interview with Marissa

Interview with Marissa


This interview is part of a series of fun interviews where I interview students about their study abroad experiences and the impact it has had on them.

The Interviews Abroad series is also a way to get free compliments from my interviewees. 


After an afternoon enjoying fika and spilling teas, I interview Marissa McKee at the Linneuniversitetet library. A 21 year old business student, this cake decorator hails from the state of Georgia in the United States of America. She is also currently watching Orphan Black on Netflix, and thinks that you should too. She also celebrated Christmas with a Swedish family where she enjoyed a feast that included beet salad and lots of potatoes. In this interview, we discuss McKee’s study abroad experience and how it has impacted this Georgia peach.

Liping Huang

Hey Marissa, thank you for being here. My readers at lipinghuang.com are going to love hearing your story. Let’s get started with some easy questions:

After the election of current president-elect Donald J. Trump, what amendments should be or shouldn’t be made to the election system in the U.S, particularly with the Electoral College?

Marissa McKee

Ummm… Unfortunately, I’m not very good with politics so I don't know much about it. I don't think it will change. I think there are enough checks and balances in place that will keep the world turning in place despite him being in office.

Liping Huang

Describe the Republican Party’s strategy for the 2020 midterm elections. What message will the GOP strengthen to increase their chances of keeping a House and Senate majority?

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Marissa McKee

*Shocked face* I really don't follow politics. What do they hope to do, wait what’s the question? I don’t know. I’m really don't. I’m a really terrible American. Politics are exhausting.

Liping Huang

Pick your poison! What is your go-to alcoholic drink?

Marissa McKee

Mojito.

Liping Huang

What made you want to study abroad? What are some reasons? Academic, personal, career, etc.

Marissa McKee

I’ve always wanted to travel. This was like the easiest way to [travel] in a semi-protective environment. Also to meet new people and try new things. Nobody else in my family studied abroad or have taken a big leap like this.

But I knew I wanted to do this  since freshman year when I found out it was an option. Academically... Not really. That's why I chose Sweden, because the courses are so chill. I’d rather travel abroad more than study abroad!

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Liping Huang

Why did you choose Sweden and ultimately Kalmar for your study abroad experience?

Marissa McKee

Well, I knew a guy who studied here last year and he loved his experience. It was also the cheapest alternative to France which I was initially looking at.

Originally, I wanted to study at a Spanish speaking program but we didn't have that option. So Sweden sounded like a good place. It was kinda random. Kalmar also had a business school, unlike Växjö. And I know how much [the Swedes] love coffee and sweets; they’re my people!

Liping Huang

How would you describe living in Sweden? Describe your living situation! Compared to your room in Georgia?

Marissa McKee

I was on campus housing during my first three years of college. It was really crappy, and twice the price of my place here [in Kalmar].

Here I had my own room and bathroom, which was more than expected. I was also close to the city center. I like the size of the city. I like having the Kalmar Castle in my backyard, and living close to the train station.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Liping Huang

How would you describe the Swedish people?

Marissa McKee

They’re distant. Self-sufficient. Conformist society. They enjoy their rules and I think the culture is able to operate efficiently because they follow these rules. I think it takes them a while to warm up to you but once they do, they’re really good friends. And they like the color black.

Liping Huang

That's why I wear black all the time too. And I bought a bunch of black shit before and when I came here.

Marissa McKee

That's why I bought this black bag! I didn’t want to stick out. I wanted to conform. Actually, it was more like blend in.

Liping Huang

How do you think Swedes are different from Americans?

Marissa McKee

Swedes follow rules and protocols. Americans… We like to find and take advantage of loopholes. They’re also more passive, and not confrontational. Those are the main things. And they’re more active; just different lifestyles and choices. They don't really drive. Biking and walking is a more normal part of life.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Liping Huang

What did you think about meeting international students? What did you expect and then what happened?

Marissa McKee

It was like hard because I was in a completely new place and I didn't know anyone. I had to make fast friends, but I'm not good at making fast friends because I'm introverted.

Also, there weren't many international students on my hall. So there wasn’t much family culture in my building which made it harder to connect with people and internationals. But I made deeper connections with a select few rather than finding a big friend group.

I was expecting [international students] to be more together. With our own house and a community feel. I didn't really have people in my hall to interact with on a daily basis. I had to work harder to find a friend group than I had expected. Now, just more of them are Swedes which is really nice.

Liping Huang

What did you think about the Swedish food? What foods did you miss from back home?

Marissa McKee

The food profile of [Swedish food culture] I guess is a little understated. There was not much cultural identity in their food.

I found it more in their fika culture. Their pride comes through with their coffee and pastries. I kinda missed stronger flavors and spices [back in the states].

I missed regional foods like island food (Cuban, Jamaican, etc). I miss Southern food: barbecue, sweet tea. And tacos. I'm going straight to that [when I get home]. Good seafood, the meatballs are good. I’ve been eating a lot of potatoes. There’s not a strong food culture here than I was hoping to find.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Liping Huang

What do you plan to do within the 5 years?

Marissa McKee

I want to manage the bakery [where I work] after I graduate. I plan to look for programs that will let me live abroad again. Whether it’s internships or doing a Masters abroad. I feel more empowered now that I'm capable of making a home for myself in new places.

Liping Huang

What specifically would you want to be studying for your Master's degree?

Marissa McKee

I don’t know. Definitely not business because I'm a business major now. I would like to do cultural studies. I would like to do a food culture study, I know one in Spain. Something more anthropological.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Liping Huang

Thinking ten, 15, and then 20 years in the future, where do you see yourself?

Marissa McKee

In about ten years... I'll be 31. I'll end up settling down in the states, starting a family at that point. Just transitioning back into settling down, but still traveling and still making that a priority. Also still finding a career at that point, and finding it by 30. But I want to feel free to do as many things as possible before then.

[In 15 years?] A mom. With a job. With a career and a family.

Oh god. Probably the same-ish, I’ll be 40, 41. Still a mom. Still a mom and a wife with a career and a focused person. I think I'd like to own my own business when I’m 40. Possibly a bakery. I see myself possibly doing that later on.

Liping Huang

How would you rate me as a human on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best?

Marissa McKee

Ten out of ten, would recommend. No, I would not like to explain. I guess funny, and friendship. Keeps it real, loves to talk smack. Trustworthy because he's a foodie. Julia Child said something like that. "People who love to eat are always the best people."

Liping Huang

How would you rate me as an interview journalist?

Marissa McKee

I’d say… a nine. There's always room for improvement, but i haven't been interviewed that much so I don't know much. Typing skills are great though.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Liping Huang

How would you rate me as a Swedish person?

Marissa McKee

A Swedish person? Ummmm… I'd give you like a six. You're wearing more black which is good. But I think you have a more vibrant personality than the Swedes.

Liping Huang

Describe how you, as a young-ish student, changed throughout this study abroad experience?

Marissa McKee

I think I'm more confident and empowered. [Studying abroad] taught me that I don't have to have everything figured out right now. That I can take time for myself and try different places and jobs and paths. And I plan to.

I broke up with my boyfriend that I was planning on marrying. I wanted to be engaged as soon as I got back [to America]. I realized I was using him as an excuse to not make my own decisions. But being here gave me the confidence to rely on myself.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Liping Huang

What’s some interesting or memorable moments that you can think of from your time abroad?

Marissa McKee

(During fika, Marissa showed me a Facebook Messenger exchange between her, and her 30 year old hallmate with a funky smell who she mistakenly thought was gay. Read it for yourself and scream.)

I got propositioned FOR SEX. Multiple times. I was in a bathroom at a bar. A guy asked if I wanted 100kr to do something dirty in the bathroom. It was insulting! I was tipsy and I was like “No.” It makes me chuckle. Also being propositioned for sex by a hallmate and giving a hard no. 

Let's see warm and fuzzy memories… My fika dates with friends. Getting to know Swedish people and international students on a more personal level. And getting to travel around. It's been really awesome seeing new places.

I crossed a lot of stuff from my bucket list: Seeing the Northern Lights, going to Vienna, and going dog sledding.  

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Honestly… That trip from Vienna. We got kicked out from our couchsurfing stay. Being fined 100 euro on the train for not having a proper ticket. Also, getting to see the opera house was a dream come true. And the Spanish riding school. I used to have posters up on the wall growing up.

Liping Huang

What has been your “rock bottom” during your time studying abroad? Describe a time when you felt shitty and miserable.

Marissa McKee

Well, I guess I have a couple. First one, I was overwhelmed.  First day here [in Kalmar], I had to spend the night sleeping on a stranger's floor. I finally made it to my apartment the next day. I was all alone, jet lagged and I didn't know anyone. I took a shower and cried.  I questioned why I came over here.

Then I sucked it up, walked around outside and saw how pretty the city was. I knew it was gonna be okay. But I needed a good cry.

I had a huge existential crisis in between my relationship [with my boyfriend] and future wise, as far as what I wanted and was capable to do. Or if the relationship was right for me anymore. I questioned our relationship and my future plan that I thought was right before I came here.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Liping Huang

What’s something impossible that you wish to do and achieve?

Marissa McKee

Learn Spanish, still. A goal of mine that I will accomplish, I hope. Such a goal.

Liping Huang

From your entire experience studying abroad in Sweden, what’s one or multiple pieces of advice you would give a prospective study abroad student?

Marissa McKee

Be in the right frame of mind to enjoy where you’re at. Don’t focus on what you're missing back home. Choose to be present in the city you are in and the people you're with. It makes a big difference.

Be open minded and willing to try new things. Challenge yourself to visit new places that you didn't think you were capable of doing or experiencing. Just be present, because it goes by real quick.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Liping Huang

Aside from the cliché that you should live life with no regrets, what are some mistakes or regrets that happened here in Sweden and what have you learned from them?

Marissa McKee

Sometimes I regret not making a bigger friend group, but it's not who I am as a person. I don't go out and connect with people at bars. I wish I had made more relationships, but I think that it was more important for me to make fewer but more meaningful relationships than just a bunch.

I also wished I saved more money so I could travel more. Not a regret, but it would've been nice. But I'm grateful for the experience and how much I was able to travel.

Liping Huang

How was the cost of living in Sweden? What was really expensive or cheaper compared to Georgia?

Marissa McKee

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

My housing was a lot cheaper. However cost of living was more expensive when it comes to going out to eat and clothing; those kind of things. I didn't have to pay for gas or a car. At the same time, I had to pay for train tickets every way. It kind of evened out. It was harder here because I didn’t and couldn’t have a job here.

Beer is hella expensive. Alcohol in general, but mainly beer in bars. Salmon is significantly cheaper than chicken breast or any meats. That's definitely something I consumed more here. I suppose some bakery sandwiches and desserts are cheaper. At least the cupcakes that we saw.

Liping Huang

Any final thoughts or words you would like to add?  

Marissa McKee

I'm tryna think... I really enjoyed Sweden. Really enjoyed the country.

It was nice to meet so many people who have traveled, especially to the states. It was awesome that most people here already spoke English very well. That language was rarely a barrier when it came to meeting new people.

I'm definitely gonna miss Scandinavia, but I’m still looking forward to more sunlight. Everyone was really doubtful that I really liked Kalmar. But I enjoyed the people, the city, and the university. I made great friendships.

I think it was truly the best I could’ve ever done for myself. I don't need no man. [When I get back, I’m] just getting back to making cakes and wedding cakes. Also planning next trips and saving that money.

Liping Huang

What are your current plans until you leave?

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Photo by Marissa McKee. Facebook.

Marissa McKee

Just enjoying my last week here. Meeting up with all my friends here. Packing up. And just making the most of my time and savoring each experience I have left. *Ugly crying noise*

Liping Huang

Where can people follow you for your next projects or on your social medias? What do you want to plug?

Marissa McKee

Facebook: Amanda’s Cakery in Macon Georgia.

Instagram: marissam626.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Liping is the founder and editor-in-chief of lipinghuang.com. He is currently a junior at SFSU studying Business Marketing while studying abroad in Sweden.

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